Three men have been arrested for allegedly raping and robbing a foreign tourist on a minibus in Rio de Janeiro, according to police.

The woman was raped repeatedly over a six hour period in the minibus on Saturday morning, while her boyfriend was handcuffed and badly beaten.

"We got information about some of the places [the suspects] had been, based on bank receipts and transactions that they made," police deputy Alexandre Braga said of the arrests.

"They would alternate driving the vehicle, two would commit rape in the back of the van and the violence against the boyfriend of the victim," Brand said on Monday.

According to a police statement, the two victims were attacked as they rode public transportation in a seaside neighbourhood of Rio de Janeiro.

The statement said assailants forced other passengers out of a shared van and then sexually assaulted the foreign woman inside the vehicle before driving her and her male companion to the poor suburban neighbourhood of Sao Goncalo.

The victims' nationalities have not been released, but local media reports have said the woman is American.

'It wasn't me'

One of the suspects was the driver of the mini bus and two of the men deny the charges.

"It wasn't me. I didn't do it. It was someone else, you know," said Wallace Aparecido de Souza Silva, one of the arrested men.

The incident raises concerns about security in Rio, which has cracked down on drug violence in preparation for hosting next year's soccer World Cup and the 2016 summer Olympic Games.

The city will host World Youth Day, a Roman Catholic pilgrimage expected to draw some 2 million people in late July.

The attack also resembled a deadly gang rape of a 23-year-old woman in New Delhi last December. That incident sparked a wave of protests across India demanding more protection for women.

In Brazil, more than 5,300 cases of sexual assault were reported between January and June 2012, according to the country's Health Ministry.

Source: Agencies